Latest exam updates

Exam refunds

To support customers affected by ongoing COVID restrictions, for Practical and Performance Grade exams from 1 January to 31 May 2021 any absent candidate will automatically receive a refund. This includes Performance Grades where the candidate has been unable to record and upload their video. You do not need to contact us to request a refund. However, it will help us if you can log in to your account and cancel the exam.

For Online Music Theory exams and any paper based exams taking place outside of the UK/Ireland we anticipate COVID restrictions will not prevent candidates from sitting their exam so absentee candidates will not automatically receive a refund and our normal Withdrawal, Non-attendance and Fee Refunds Policy still applies.

Music Theory exams – March 2021

  • Online Music Theory exams (Grades 1 to 5) – we are cancelling the online exams planned for 16 March. Exams in May and June will go ahead as planned.
  • Paper Music Theory exams (Grades 6 to 8) – the next exams will take place in June. Please note, dates and booking periods for Grades 1-5 and Grades 6-8 may be different from now on. For full details, see our dates and fees page.
  • Grade 5 Music Theory requirement - from 1 January to 30 April 2021 only, candidates can take Grade 6 to 8 Performance or Practical exams without first passing Grade 5 Music Theory. From 1 May 2021, the Grade 5 Music Theory requirement will return with flexibility about timing. If you receive an email asking for your proof of prerequisite, please ignore this. We will still release any results in line with the arrangements outlined here.

For more information click here.

Performance Grade booking

We will be offering Performance Grade exams every month for the remainder of 2021. Please check here for dates and fees.

How do we mark exams?

ABRSM exams avoid the potential bias of instrument specialism by:

  • applying universal, non-instrument-specific criteria
  • focusing on the musical outcome, not the technical means behind it!

The marking criteria

The tables below show the marking criteria that will be used by examiners in Jazz exams as of 1 January 2017. Please note that the structure of the exams themselves will not change.

Marking principles

In each element of the exam, ABRSM operates the principle of marking from the required pass mark positively or negatively, rather than awarding marks by deduction from the maximum or addition from zero.

In awarding marks, examiners balance the extent to which the qualities and skills listed below (broadly categorized by pitch, time, tone, shape and performance) are demonstrated and contribute towards the overall musical outcome.

Total marks

Jazz graded music exams are marked out of a total of 150, with:

  • 100 marks required for a Pass
  • 120 marks required for a Merit
  • 130 marks required for a Distinction


A Pass in each individual section of the exam is not required to pass overall.


Grades 1-5








  • Highly accurate notes and intonation
  • Solo has stylish and inventive note choices
  • Improvisation shows harmonic awareness
  • Fluent, with flexibility where appropriate
  • Rhythmic character well conveyed throughout
  • Convincing groove in the improvisation
  • Well projected
  • Sensitive use of jazz tonal qualities
  • Expressive, idiomatic musical shaping in the Head
  • Solo has authentic detail
  • Assured
  • Fully committed
  • Vivid communication of character and style
  • Idiomatic embellishment


  • Largely accurate notes and intonation
  • Solo has controlled note choices
  • Coherent improvisation
  • Sustained, effective tempo and groove
  • Good sense of rhythm and feel throughout
  • Controlled rhythmic placement in the improvisation
  • Mainly controlled and consistent
  • Good jazz tonal awareness
  • Clear musical shaping in the Head
  • Solo has some expressive variety
  • Positive
  • Carrying musical conviction
  • Character and style communicated
  • Effective embellishment


  • Generally correct notes and intonation
  • Solo has some contour
  • Suitable tempo
  • Overall rhythmic accuracy and correct feel
  • Generally stable placement within the Solo
  • Generally reliable
  • Adequate jazz tonal awareness
  • Some realisation of musical shape and/or detail
  • Generally secure, prompt recovery from slips
  • Some musical involvement
  • Embellishment attempted

Below Pass

  • Frequent note errors and/or unreliable intonation
  • Solo lacks contour
  • Unsuitable and/or uncontrolled tempo
  • Irregular pulse and groove
  • Inaccurate rhythm and/or incorrect feel
  • Uneven and/or unreliable
  • Inadequate jazz tonal awareness
  • Insufficient musical shaping
  • Insecure, inadequate recovery from slips
  • Insufficient musical involvement
  • Ineffective or no embellishment


  • Largely inaccurate notes and/or intonation
  • Solo lacks coherence
  • Erratic tempo and/or rhythm
  • Groove and feel not established
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Musical shape and detail largely unrealised
  • Lacking continuity
  • No musical involvement


  • Highly inaccurate notes and/or intonation
  • Solo very incoherent or absent
  • Incoherent tempo and/or pulse
  • Groove and feel absent
  • No tonal control
  • No shape
  • Unable to continue for more than a short section


  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered
  • No work offered

Other exam elements

Grades 1-5


Scales and arpeggios

Quick study


  • Highly accurate notes/pitch
  • Fluent and rhythmic
  • Straight/swing feel consistently realised
  • Musically shaped
  • Confident response
  • Highly accurate given material
  • Improvised answer in keeping with style
  • Well-balanced and confident presentation


  • Largely accurate notes/pitch
  • Mostly regular flow
  • Straight/swing feel realised
  • Mainly even tone
  • Secure response
  • Broadly accurate given material
  • Controlled improvised answer
  • Largely secure presentation


  • Generally correct notes/pitch, despite errors
  • Continuity generally maintained
  • Straight/swing feel attempted
  • Generally reliable tone
  • Cautious response
  • Outline of given material in place
  • Improvised answer has basic contour
  • Cautious presentation

Below Pass

  • Frequent errors in notes and/or pitch
  • Lacking continuity and/or some items incomplete
  • Straight/swing feel not realised
  • Unreliable tone
  • Uncertain response and/or some items not attempted
  • Given material not sufficiently realised
  • Improvised answer lacking coherence
  • Insecure presentation


  • Very approximate notes and/or pitch
  • Sporadic and/or frequently incomplete
  • Serious lack of tonal control
  • Very uncertain response and/or several items not attempted
  • Very approximate given material
  • Improvised answer incoherent or absent
  • Very uncertain presentation


  • No work offered
  • No work offered

Grades 1-5


Aural tests


  • Accurate throughout
  • Musically perceptive
  • Confident response


  • Strengths significantly outweigh weaknesses
  • Musically aware
  • Secure response


  • Strengths just outweigh weaknesses
  • Cautious response

Below Pass

  • Weaknesses outweigh strengths
  • Uncertain response


  • Inaccuracy throughout
  • Vague response


  • No work offered

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy and consent to our use of cookies. Find out more.